Sunday, September 16, 2018

Shadows Twenty-Three

Shadows Twenty-Three September 9, 2018

It is not easy to distinguish reality from illusion, especially when one lives in a period of the great upheaval that began a couple of centuries ago on a small western peninsula of the Euro-Asiatic continent, only to encompass the whole planet during one man’s lifetime with the uniform worship of science and technology. And it was particularly difficult to oppose multiple intellectual temptations in those areas of Europe where degenerate ideas of dominion over men, akin to the ideas of dominion over Nature, led to paroxysms of revolution and war at the expense of millions of human beings destroyed physically or spiritually. And yet perhaps our most precious acquisition is not an understanding of those ideas, which we touched in their most tangible shape, but respect and gratitude for certain things which protect people from internal disintegration and from yielding to tyranny. Precisely for that reason some ways of life, some institutions became a target for the fury of evil forces, above all the bonds between people that exist organically, as if by themselves, sustained by family, religion, neighborhood, common heritage. In other words, all that disorderly, illogical humanity, so often branded as ridiculous because of its parochial attachments and loyalties. In many countries traditional bonds of civitas have been subject to a gradual erosion and their inhabitants become disinherited without realizing it. It is not the same, however, in those areas where suddenly, in a situation of utter peril, a protective, life-giving value of such bonds reveals itself.–Czeslaw Milosz Nobel Lecture, 1980.

This is what we suffer. This wears us down.
Those small towns I lived in as a child: Zenith,
Kansas, Cameron, West Virginia, Norman,
Oklahoma. I walked to the post office. I
Visited the women quilting in the church
basement, my parents took me seriously
and believed I could do anything I wanted
to do, even if, later, I scared them to death
by loving mavericks, challenging the racial
line, risking my life, my health, my safety.
Wherever I went, I built community,
fostered connections between those going
it alone. Milosz helped me see, at age
eighty-one, that our worship of science
and technology, our allowing a dictator
to be elected president, is killing us off.
The big electricity corporation has brought
us a present we couldn’t refuse of seven
million tons of poison. They say they’ll stop 
now.  They’ve done enough damage. Instead,
they’ll burn the coal ash again and kill us 
faster. No one stops them. People are
getting sick. They don’t want to fight
any more. They forget: when we fight, we
love each other. We can live with our
differences. Black, white, and Hispanic;
church-goers and non-church-goers.
Andrew says, “You’ve won a victory. 
Have a victory party.” Rhonda says, 
“You’re defying the doctors. I predict
you’ll have a stroke.” She’s angry at her
body’s weakness, and at me, for trusting
myself and challenging doctors, our techno-
masters in a sickening world. The human
body knows how to heal itself. Instead, they
give us pills and then more pills, and the 
body then is truly sick, won’t fight any more. 
Milosz lived under the Nazis, under Stalin.
He fought and he survived. I, too, am
fighting, and I, too, am surviving. Love
can conquer. Give it a try.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Shadows Twenty-Two

Judy making bread, with sticky hands.

Shadows Twenty-Two September 2, 2018

Proust thought Time destroyed us,
those hidden memories our only
salvation. For me, Time allows
fulfillment, to come into my own,
to learn, to heal, and even to be
recognized and valued. There were
people who hated me, but they
didn’t stop me. My own body
slowed me down, reminded me
I had done well and to think of those
I love. I persuaded my friends
and my doctor to trust my way
of life, my faith in myself; to let
me continue my independent way. 
My son and I learned to live
together. We lost some crops,
but harvested bushels of tomatoes.
I made spaghetti sauce and soup.
Now there are grapes to make
Muscadine jelly, pears to make
preserves. I do my work as a
writer, editor, teacher. I celebrate
Jaki, whom I first published
forty-five years ago. I will
teach poetry and story writing.
Like the moon’s slow, steady
increase of its light, I resume

my own life of work and love.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Shadows Twenty-One

Zinnia with butterfly


Shadows Twenty-One

For Jaki

You looked so fragile, but I
knew even then that you were
tough. Now I look back on
your resurrections. After you
left that March day in 1973,
I saw a small white dogwood
blooming across the racist fields.
It named your spirit. A briefcase
full of poems: some loving, some
harsh. I felt their power. Then
that Fourth of July, when we 
went to Asheville, you with
baby Eva, and in your appointment
book for January, you wrote:
“background music, fireworks,
cheering,” and then, over and
over: “simmering of blood,
simmering of blood, simmering
of blood.” I put that page–110–
in your book. Those early years
I worried about your life. After
Imani died, I worried about
your health. In your grief, 
your hands were paralyzed. You
couldn’t write. You healed again,
and now they’ve honored you,
made you the state’s laureate poet.
You wanted me there to celebrate.
I offended many in those days 
forty-five years ago. I broke up
the cliques, published the writers 
who were different, who were
marginalized. Together we changed
those margins, and you’re alive
and still speaking truth.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Shadows Twenty

Cosmos in my garden in 2014. They bloom again this year.

Shadows Twenty August 19, 2018

For Virginia

How do I describe my faithfulness to my
deepest knowledge, to what I see but
can’t easily reveal in words. I tried not
to be good as a child is good. I rebelled
against old formulas, trite words. I loved
Thoreau’s wisdom: “If I see someone
coming to do me good, I run for my life.”
I rejected that impulse to “do good.” Yet I 
have always worked against evil when
I saw it blazing up in corporations, in
those fearful of rocking the boat, or who
were terrified to be seen as bad, as trouble-
makers. So I’ve been castigated, dismissed, 
written off. It hasn’t been so bad. Some
tender hearts have loved me, and even
tough-spirited strangers have helped me
out. I have a few fans of my books. I
don’t need acclaim, but I do need to feel
loved and acknowledged by those I love
and trust, those who can see with clear
eyes who I am, what I care about. I’ve
been told many times that what I want
is impossible, will never happen. They
say life isn’t like that. You don’t get what
you wish for. In short, the power of evil
is too great. I don’t give up, however,
and then people love me. Things begin
to change. What my skeptics have
forgotten is the power of transformation
and what love can do when it’s unleashed,
when we see clearly, when other people’s
minds open like a book that wants to be
read. I can’t make that happen. I can’t
stop it. I can, however, give it my 
gratitude and let it go to work.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Shadows Nineteen

Zinnias in bloom a few years ago. they bloom now, too.

Shadows Nineteen August 12, 2018

For Tim

So much change since April, when
my son arrived to help me with this
aging time and the body’s unpredictable
messages. He was there when my nose
bled. He picked up chores when my
heart beat too fast. He scolded if I
worked too hard. He likes pizza and
spaghetti, so I make those often. We
talk out problems, so I write less
in my diary, and I’ve stopped reading
mysteries to help pass the time. We
argue sometimes and then make amends.
I go to sleep early, and he stays up late.
He closes the chickens up at night, 
and I let them out in the morning. He 
fixed the clothesline when it fell
down and loves my Wag as well as
his Sophie. He writes poems now
and came to my workshop. He’ll
soon leave to work in Durham, but
I can do most things now. I have my
strategies and resources. When I 
can’t find things, he finds them. I
couldn’t have made him move here
to help me out, but he came, and he
stays. He’ll get his own place soon,
but he wants to be nearby. There are
things I can’t do any more and won’t
try, but I write, I laugh, I share the
wisdom of having lived sixty years
doing what my Deep Self said to do.
I’ve also realized that I’m happy.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Shadows Eighteen

Shadows Eighteen August 5, 2018

Sleep is a gift. When I want to,
sometimes I can’t. When I don’t
want to, sometimes it takes me
without any notice until I wake up.
Mostly, it’s generous. I sleep at night,
even before dark, and before light, 
wake for the day, already rested.
I know it heals. The body and soul
blend together in sleep, help each
other, confide their troubles, and
let them go. I am changed, renewed,
healed, ready to take on what the
new day will uncover. Lately? More
joy than sorrow, healing laughter,
a grateful heart.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Shadows Seventeen

Judy making pizza in August 2018

Shadows Seventeen July 29, 2018

For Mary Susan and Tom Heath

At two a.m. I’m wide awake. What
is my mind trying to tell me? Not, 
I think, “Slow down.” I already have.
No, it’s urging me to do a little more
each day until I approach normal, a
new normal. Full recovery is slow, maybe
not even possible, but I can pick my
own tomatoes, make the soups and
sauces that will brighten winter days.
Tomatoes are good for the body and 
the soul. They heal in subtle ways.
In the garden I still find the neglected 
thyme and oregano. I add some basil
I dried a few years ago. I buy fat
green peppers and slice up strong
white onions. The garlic is sprouting,
but I dice it small and add it to the
celery, and then stir in tomato paste
and many sauce tomatoes. They are
ripening in paper bags where the
bugs can’t eat them, and keeping
cold in the refrigerator for the next
batch of sauce. Whatever my old
heart is up to, it thrives on a plate
of spaghetti with melted cheese,
and a rich tomato sauce. Don’t 
forget the bay leaf, a sprinkle of
black pepper added to the sauteeing

onions, and a dash of salt.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Shadows Sixteen

Zinnias and Cosmos 2014. We have them again in 2018

Shadows Sixteen July 22, 2018

The storm hit us at three-twenty and
knocked out the power. I found my
flashlight, and Tim found his. We got
candles lit. The sky bloomed light, but 
the thunder was slow to follow. Tim 
slept, and I waited for the storm’s further
withdrawal after the lights returned.
Normal life is back. My zinnia garden
lavishes color; the chicks grow plump
and feathered. The old dead oak that
worries us is still standing. The wind
didn’t harass the flowers. Every morning
I see pink and purple morning glories
seven feet off the ground, having
climbed up the sunflower stalks. I
Read Maslow’s being love again.
It’s why I stayed calm when my nose
bled, when my heart rushed, and I
had to sit quietly until it ceased to
panic. Can we heal because we’re
happy? I think so.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Shadows Fifteen

Our first zinnia in 2018

Shadows Fifteen July 15, 2018

I was afraid my heart would rebel
and keep me from leading a workshop
on writing poetry. My friend had said
to rest more. I had things to do,
but I did stop to rest. Then six people
came to learn what I knew about
poetry. “What is a poem?” I asked.
They suggested it was condensed
words, that it was like a stream running
through the soul. I told them the
fourth grader’s understanding: “A poet
is someone who writes poetry, someone
who loves all living things.” I told
them about Homer’s Muse, about
the Old Testament prophets who
cried: “The Word of the Lord came 
to me.” About how words could seem
to take off, and the deeper mind to
throw up words we weren’t expecting.
I mentioned Jacques Maritain’s hexis–
a gift we have in our unconscious
that we need to take care of and
listen to. If the poem starts in the
grocery store, make more room
in your life for the Muse. Then I 
asked them to write a simple poem,
and they all did, even the librarian.
To my surprise, they all read their
new poems. They trusted me and
each other enough on very short
acquaintance. My heart behaved and
was quieted. Another unexpected gift.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Shadows Fourteen

Judy in her writing corner July 2018.

Shadows Fourteen July 8, 2018

Our days cool ten degrees–what a change.
I pull on a long-sleeved shirt. The chicks
need their heat lamp. My son walks his
dog in the cool evening air. My body
inches its way back to normal. I am
still Judy Hogan. I can walk at the dam
again. I laugh telling tales of when I
took those in power so much by surprise
that they changed their tune. When I
fill their feeders, I stop to watch the
chicks run to the new feed or sit
placidly to watch. I load my new
book files onto the website for printing
them. I ask help from old and new
friends, and they come through. So
many things in my everyday life feel 
like miracles. I tell myself, yes, I did
the groundwork, I established the
trust, yet I am still surprised. Who
knew age could have so many
miracles even as my power wanes. I 
never did demand acclaim, only the 
opportunity to send my words out 
on the world’s waters for strangers
to read, revel in, and meditate on 
the truth they hold in their hands.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Shadows Thirteen

Vera Belikh's painting of Volga, boats, and church, at Tver
Shadows Thirteen July 1, 2018

Another hot day lives outside
my window. I’m healing slowly.
I’ll soon be able to care for the
chicks again. Two more days.
They live in the coop now in
their own “room,” only rarely
need the heat lamp. I’ll be able to
fill their feeders and waterer;
make sure their heat lamp is on
in the cool night air. My spirit
staggered under the command
to heal or bleed. I healed. Now
it’s time to find my feet again,
resume my chores, my daily
walk, live without deranging
fear, trust my heart to keep its
steady pace, my limbs to carry
me, my Muse to speak and comfort

me and others at the same time.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Shadows Eleven

Photo of my White Rock hens several years ago, by John Ewing

Shadows Eleven June 17, 2018

A friend who is four years older,
still working hard with mower 
and chainsaw, had a stroke. It’s
what the doctors worry about
with me. I’ve eased off the hard
physical labor, but I still carry
water to the hens, rake, hoe, and
plant seeds, dig out weeds. I wrote
a new novel in April and May, and
now I type it. I cook and clean,
but I rest when I’m tired, still sleep
hard at night, avoid high heat days.
The body has its signals, tells me
to ease up, take a break, but it
doesn’t mean I can’t still do most
things. And my muse is still lively. 
I notice small signs, read the souls
of others better than they know or
want to know. Wesley surprised
me. His early love not dead at
eighty-one, his fantasy still alive;
mine, locked in memory. Most
loves faded or fell silent. Only 
one burns bright still and, like
a sun in the underworld, 
outshines all the lesser ones.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Baba Summer: Part One will be published in 2019

Judy and Mikhail in 1992 in Kostroma, Russia

Adelaide Books of New York City will publish my first memoir of my Russian experiences early in 2019. Here's a little about it.


I open my  experience, not only of coping with a potent love but also of making bonds with a nationally known painter, a school teacher, and a philosophy student.   I was one of the first American writers to visit the Kostroma region, and my partner in the exchanges was a new experience for central North Carolina residents.  Our writer exchanges and mutual publishing projects continued through 2001.  These new connections occurred as Russia went through the upheaval of changing from Communism to Capitalism. This intense experience of working on peace and understanding with our former enemy was the biggest event of my life.


In 1992 I would meet Vera Belikh, the painter and philosopher daughter of the national painter, Aleksei Belikh, whom I met in 1990 during my first visit. Here is Vera's painting of a church by the Volga, in the autumn.


This is the Black River flowing through the remote forest or taiga in the Mezha District of the Kostroma Region. The county officials took me to see the landscape near where Mikhail had been born, in a village among many lost during the collectivization of the farms, and the loss of men in World War II (The Great Patriotic War). Mikhail talked and reminisced about his growing up in a village from the beginning of our writer exchanges.


In August 1992 I was also able to spend some time in the village of Gorka, where MIkhail's wife Katya had grown up. Left to right, Tanya, Mikhail's granddaughter, Larissa, married to Mikhail's son Misha, standing, then the little son of Misha and Larissa, then Shura, Katya's sister-in-law, and Katya's brother Kolya, and in front: Aleksei (Alyosha), Mikhail's younger son, and then Mikhail. Taken in front of the village house, where I also stayed.

In Moscow after I visited Kostroma in August 1990, I met Larissa Bavrina (on the right),pictured here with her friend Tanya, close since childhood. Larissa gave me and my son a tour of Red Square before we caught our train back to Finland. Larissa and I still correspond. She's become a close friend of mine.Our early letters, 1990-92 are in Baba Summer: Part One. Judy

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Shadows Ten

Nadya's apples and plums from her dacha. 2009

Little Bobby! He used to come out from
his nap, get in my lap, and we would read
a story. His blonde hair stood straight up.
After the graduation exercises were over,
we waited a long time to see our tall Bobby.
His hair curls now. I held onto Tim’s arm
as we walked back to his truck. There goes
little Bobby into his new life. I work to
bring a happy closure to my life, put my
books into print, stop the coal ash dumping,
heal where I’m looked to; accept the
extra help as needed, soothe and reassure
others who hesitate to put their full weight
on living their own lives, trusting their

own souls. Trust yours, Bobby! It’s there.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Shadows Nine

Wise sage in my garden a few years ago.

Shadows Nine June 3, 2018

It all helps. When I scorched the bread,
turning the heat to broil instead of turning
it off, my son comforted me. “Michael 
Jordan said in his life he’d missed more baskets
than he’d hit, and he was the greatest
basketball player of all time.” Then Wesley
called, my very first love. At twelve, our
love was simple. He brought me a gardenia
every day. We held hands and were happy.
Now he tends his wife who has dementia,
and he can’t seem to answer my letters.
He doesn’t know why. I said, “This is
wearing on your spirit. Don’t be too hard
on yourself.” At the coal ash meeting
we learn of a study to test the wells around
the landfill that holds six million tons of 
poison. We have new members joining us 
from another local group. These are gifts 
to keep me going. I am always behind
in my daily chores, but we eat well
and admire our happy tomato plants.
The weeds return with every rain, but
the hydrangea and the daylilies bloom.
The good in my life defies all logic as 
usual and touches my inward soul like
a softly falling rain.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Shadows Eight

Shadows Eight May 20, 2018

May has brought surprises good
and bad. My story–our story--of a
love that crossed the huge ocean--
will go into print in less than a year.
I happily prepare the text for
publication. My editor is impatient
but passionate. I tell everyone I
meet. My Russian friends rejoice,
too, and send permission to print
their letters. Friendships ruled
those years, and sometimes love,
which went too deep to let go and
lifted us to a higher plane of 
existence. What people see is an
old woman who is sometimes
stubborn. She fights with doctors
and talks about her Muse, which
is no longer fashionable. Not that
it matters. Socrates didn’t trouble
himself about fashions. Nor did
Plato, who knew about falling in 
love. He fell in love with the 
reality behind things that made
them what they are. Let them
think what they wish. My glimpses
of the real world will stand the
test of time as well as my shoes
did when I had to talk through
foot-deep running water to cross
the street and the next morning 
they were dry.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Shadows Seven

My figs during their prosperous years--2011, August.

Shadows Seven April 29, 2018

Beginnings are hardest. In the morning
I sit up slowly, inch my way closer
to a place to hold on, rise carefully,
balance before I walk. I make sure I don’t 
go too long without eating and sleep early.
As the day waxes, my confidence returns.
I remember what I need to, see to the hens,
make notes in my diary, in which I tell
the whole story. Sometimes I start to fall,
but I catch myself. At the dam I walk
steadily, don’t fear falling. Back at
home I’m warmer, shed layers, resume
morning tasks and rituals, with enough
energy for the day. By myself I see the 
years of faithful work to leave my legacy 
of stories and insights alive behind me.
Among others I see their discomfort.
They don’t look at me. They forget 
my place in the line-up of poets. I make 
them nervous. Why? Maybe because
I look into Death’s face and am not
afraid. How does one find that
particular courage? It arrives in time
to be useful in the last years, but I
realize I’ve practiced going my own way 
most of my life, since age twenty-one,
to nearly eighty-one. Not dismissing
urgencies that would keep me whole
and safe, not denying love when it
defied logic. Those who hated me? I 
stayed away, and generally, they did, too.
I sometimes lose things or forget them, 
but I’ve never forgotten to safeguard
my soul and keep it whole, no matter 
what my circumstances are.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Shadows Four

Early Spring bees and onions several years ago.

Shadows Four April 8, 2018

Some see the world as a dangerous place.
I don’t. One says, “You see it as a safe place.”
I say, “No, but I see it differently. I know
there are dangers, but I’m focused on trying
to be in tune with the grain of the universe,
with the way it’s made. I follow my deep
intuition, even when it doesn’t make sense.
It makes me accident-unlikely. I may have 
accidents, but usually they’re not as bad as
they could have been. So, yes, I had that flat
tire on Thursday, but it happened in my
front yard. I drove it across the road and
turned. When it was still bad, I pulled over
and stopped to look. I had a very flat right
front tire. Or I have car trouble as I pull into
a service station. I work toward peace
with my neighbors and fight for all of us
for cleaner air and water. They respect me
and protect me. I’ve never been harmed
by my neighbors, and I’ve often been
helped. You don’t need to worry about them
harming me.” I have a very different
orientation to the world. There are dangers
and evil people. If people are determined
to be my enemy, I stay away from them.
In the meantime, I try to have friendly
relations with everyone, if it’s possible. I’m
outspoken, and some people hate what I say
and can’t forgive me. One day I might be
harmed, but this way to live suits me.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Shadows Six

My first and only iris this spring. 

Shadows Six April 22, 2018

My shadow at the dam is shorter now.
It walks close behind me or right in front.
I watch for new wild flowers and try
to guess which birds are circling high
above me. Wag and I go at a steady
pace, meet another, younger dog-walker,
who smiles as they pass us. We walk
more slowly, but we are there, keeping
our limbs limber, our bodies warmed
by the exercise. I count the cars of the
fishers below us, standing back now
from the turmoil of water as it explodes
high when released from the dam. Some
mornings I wonder if my old body can 
get me through another day with ease,
even with grace. It does, and my doubts
fall back until another day. I sleep hard,
at night and sometimes by day–
unexpectedly. In the doctor’s office
my blood pressure was good; heart
and lungs still doing their work.
I keep walking if more slowly, nod 
off when I’m tired, and words keep
flowing. It’s all I ask.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

The Art of Gene Dillard

Winter Scene of Gene Dillard's home.

Gene Dillard has been my friend for twenty-seven years. He became a good poet in spite of himself. In Honduras, he wrote this one:


I saw his bent frame
walking toward the Mercado,
across his shoulders
a large pole with
huge bunches of bananas
hanging from each side.
Images rippled 
through my mind 
like corrugated sheet metal
used for roofing
in the third world
I thought he was a troubadour
carrying many fascinating
odes encased with
a protective outer skin,
waiting for a chance
to recite.

His real love came later: building sculptures

Tree to left of house

Then bottle walls

Then mosaic trees, flowers, stars and mirrors, on his garage and house walls.

back of house and porch

Then he went inside; made tables and chairs, walls and skylights.

Everywhere he looked, he saw where the beautiful could transform the ordinary. People came to stare, to wonder at his patience. Mosaic work takes months, sometimes a whole year to remake one wall. He dreams new visions for his house museum, then starts work.

Gene at top of tower.

He's a great artist, isn't he?

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Shadows Five

My phalaenopsis now beginning its blooms.


Shadows Five   April 15, 2018

As our days warm, the sun higher
earlier, my shadow follows or leads 
me up close. Greens dominate the
dam’s verges and the wooded hills.
I see the flowering grasses–so small 
I pick one to see it up close: four
pale violet petals, one up, three down,
a white dot in the center, like an orchid. 
A distant cousin maybe. My small 
window orchids are blooming, and 
the big phalaenopsis begins buds.
My son and I plant peas and beets,
and the new rain waters them. The
hens can’t wait to get out when I open
their chicken door. The house stays
warm at night. The trees are leafing
out. Winter was unwilling to get
out of bed, and Spring rushed in
and yanked off the cloud cover.
My heart beats normally; I sleep
hard, wake rested. The dog and I
do our ritual walk, and I count
fishermen and watch for new wild
flowers, say hello to other walkers.
When we arrive home, Wag nuzzles
me to let her out. The radio gives
me holy music, and I rest in the

sacred silence.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Shadows Three

Three Cliffs Bay on Gower Peninsula, Wales. By John Ewing


Shadows Three April 1, 2018

It takes sun to make shadows. From
age twenty-one I’ve been entranced
by sun coming through leaves, bright
green, then darker, when the wind moves
them out of light into shade. Or wine
with sun in its depths, transforming
its reds, or its warmth on my back
as I plant seeds or weed untidy rows.
At the dam I watch for sun in order
to see my shadow. Winter has many
dark and cloudy days. Sometimes the
sun is trying to break through its
cloud cover but still no shadows, 
which, at my new age, reassure me. 
They are sun’s other children after all.
I feel more whole when my shadow
stretches out behind me or leads me
forward. These days uneven ground
makes me stumble, slow down to place
my feet carefully, hold onto my fence,
watch the way ahead. I keep walking
so that I can keep walking. On a 
straight, flat road, I can look around,
trust my feet, but in the backyard
or in the house, I watch every step.
The hens like to excavate, make
hills and valleys in their straw, dig
down to see what’s there, find
food grains they missed or buried.
They can kick away until there’s a big 
hole. On a warm day, they dig into the
earth, work it into their feathers, take
dirt baths. It must feel cool on their
skin. So I walk, hoping for shadows,
behind or before. Everything I do, 
everywhere I walk, matters. Sun
confirms that every time it outwits
the cloudy sky.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Shadows One

My White Rock hens a few years ago. This could be today.


Shadows One

Based on “Rapids” by Julia Kennedy in her calendar painting for May 2018

For me it’s shadows. Every day I walk across
the dam, I watch for my shadow marching
below me, down the hill, and some days,
when the wind is still, even across the water
and up the hill at the other end of the earthen
dam that creates Jordan Lake. In the painting
there is one small human figure surrounded
by rushing water, darkly threatening clouds,
with only a small window of blue that could
be sky but is probably water. That little
shadow is very persistent as she trudges
along. Even in a wind, she doesn’t hesitate,
pulls her hood up to protect her neck and
ears. A step at a time a great distance can
prove possible. But, oh for the courage 
to believe in that shadow. I like to think
that when I’m gone, and even if storm clouds
dominate, and water boils and foams, and 
wind is cruel and relentless, that my shadow--
all that is left of me and whatever words 
on paper survive my death--will keep on 
walking with firm steps, seeing more than
I can see now, accepting storms, even
lightning, but refusing to be dismissed,
ignored, or turned aside. Something eternal
or stubborn, or so part of the nature of
things that it simply won’t let go.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Shadows Two

Early Spring in 2011. Beets and Leeks


Shadows Two March 26, 2018

Erik Erikson said Ghandi found his
true identity when he was fifty. I
was seventy, still healthy, writing
and publishing books, teaching writers,
a small farmer with a flock of White
Rock hens, and a leader in my
community. At eighty, I take that
diversity of tasks for granted. I don’t 
debate. It is a balancing act, and
my balance ability is distressed
by my age. Still, I rake and dig.
I hold onto tree branches and my
chain-link fence. I’ve said I’m
both Penelope and Odysseus. I
did have my once-in-a-lifetime
love–across the ocean, despite
the language barrier, and our
different lifestyles. We fought,
but we held on. He became one
of Homer’s shades, reduced to
shadows in the Underworld, but
still alive, still speaking and
foretelling the planet’s future if
we don’t attend to the signs. I’ll
be a shade, too, before too many
years have passed. Some of that
is beyond my control, and some
is up to me. The doctors urged
a cane four years ago, but I said
no. “I can’t farm with a cane.”
They said medicine, but I was
wary of the side-effects, the
medicine worse than the complaint.
My body heals while I sleep. It 
puts me to sleep a lot. But my 
aches and pains go away. I tell
them I have good telemeres.
They listen. The symptoms which 
puzzled them have disappeared.
Eighty isn’t so bad if you accept
that your pace will be slower; 
you’ll do less work in a day and
choose your tasks carefully, 
get as much exercise as possible,
and let people help you. My helpers
appear out of the blue. I don’t ask
why. They don’t tell me why. They
simply go to work. I give them bread.
A piece of Judy’s bread toasted
with marmalade makes them happy. 
No, I’m not a shade yet, and life
still pulls surprises out of my 

lucky grab bag. I can’t complain.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Review of Tormentil Hall by Katherine Wolfe

Tormentil Hall: The Eighth Penny Weaver Mystery by Judy Hogan. $15. March 2018. Paperback, ISBN-13: 978-19775235709, 212 pages. Hoganvillaea Books. To order, $18 (tax and postage added) PO Box 253, Moncure, NC. 27559

By Katherine Wolfe, Goldsboro writer.

I must confess I liked Sands of Gower so much that I was worried I might not like Tormentil Hall as well. How wrong I was!. From the first page, I knew my second visit to Gower would be equal to or better than the first. (It takes more than one date to get to know someone or more than one visit to know a place.) 

As Penny introduces her friends Sammie and Derek to Wales, the reader is reacquainted with the Gower Peninsula, its villages, its mountain, its history, and why Penny goes there to write poetry and think about her life. The story begins as a peaceful holiday vacation for Penny's friends, but conflict quickly develops and a murder occurs which keeps the reader engaged until the end. 

In solving the murder, Penny and Sammie travel to the village of Pwll-du and Swansea where they interact with everyday people: the librarian, the post office owner, a retired barrister, B&B owners and guests, and the police department. As they unravel the mystery, the reader learns much about the human race and its prejudices as well as its ability to love, heal, and rise after being knocked down. 

When I finished the book, I felt like I had traveled with Penny and Sammie. I liked the walks along the cliffs, eating digestive biscuits, sitting around a table with the people of Gower, drinking milky coffee with meat pies, Welsh cakes, or a ploughman's lunch of cheese, bread, and pickles. 

Note: if you order two of the Penny Weaver Mysteries, it’s only $25, including tax and postage. Learn more at